"They tried to take cover," says Lt. Pat McWilliams of the Henderson Co., Texas Sheriff's Dept. of the two deputies killed while responding to a domestic. See Related Video
PAYNE SPRINGS, Tex. — A gunman fatally shot two Henderson County sheriff's deputies and wounded another Thursday, hours after the deputies participated in a memorial to honor peace officers slain in the line of duty, authorities said.
The deputies were shot while responding to a domestic disturbance near the East Texas town of Payne Springs, sheriff's Lt. Pat McWilliams said.
McWilliams said the suspect was shot in the elbow and his side, and taken to a hospital. He did not know the man's condition. A woman who was in the home was not injured and was being interviewed by Texas Rangers.
The wounded deputy and the suspect were taken to East Texas Medical Center in Tyler. The deputy was in surgery Thursday night to repair a broken leg, McWilliams said.
"My wounded deputy is in surgery and doing good," McWilliams said.
The suspect, identified as Randall W. Mays, 47, was at the hospital being guarded by Smith County sheriff's deputies, McWilliams said. He has not yet been charged.
Police records indicate Mays previously was convicted of fleeing from police, driving under the influence of drugs and criminal mischief.
One of the officers killed was in uniform; the other was a plainclothes investigator, McWilliams said.
The officers were responding to a domestic disturbance when the gunman opened fire, McWilliams said.
"Upon arrival, he opened fire on them and caught them out in the open. They tried to take cover," McWilliams said. "As a result, we have two dead."
The three deputies were shot by a high-powered rifle, McWilliams said.
The uniformed deputy who died was wearing a bulletproof vest "but that doesn't protect you from a high-powered rife," McWilliams said.
It was unclear if the plainclothes investigator was wearing a vest.
The suspect's next-door neighbor, Russell Hicks, said he witnessed the shootings and said Mays was armed with a rifle and had two pistols tucked into his belt.
Hicks said Mays dressed in Army fatigues and used bales of hay as target practice almost every day. "I never had any problems with the guy," Hicks said. "If I needed help, he helped me. And if he needed help, I helped him."
The officers' identities are not being released until their families are notified, McWilliams said.
The three deputies attended a Henderson County Peace Officers Association memorial service in the courthouse square earlier Thursday to honor fallen officers, McWilliams said.
Until Thursday, a Henderson County deputy hadn't died in the line of duty since 1956. The last time a peace officer died in the county was 1977.
The speaker at the service was a U.S. Border Patrol officer who is the cousin of the wounded deputy, McWilliams said.
Payne Springs is about 50 miles southeast of Dallas.